Amid horror, Sri Lanka church still shows beauty
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Amid horror, Sri Lanka church still shows beauty

It’s thought nearly half of the roughly 250 people killed in the Easter bombings died at the Negombo church

  • In this April 25, 2019 photo, a Sri Lankan policewoman looks at the damage inside St. Sebastian's Church, one of the sites of Easter Sunday's bombings, in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
    In this April 25, 2019 photo, a Sri Lankan policewoman looks at the damage inside St. Sebastian's Church, one of the sites of Easter Sunday's bombings, in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • In this April 25, 2019 photo, Catholic priests walk outside St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
    In this April 25, 2019 photo, Catholic priests walk outside St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • In this April 25, 2019 photo, a statue of St. James stands on a wall speckled with fragments of shrapnel at St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
    In this April 25, 2019 photo, a statue of St. James stands on a wall speckled with fragments of shrapnel at St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • In this April 25, 2019 photo, a policeman stands guard, as surveyors work at St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
    In this April 25, 2019 photo, a policeman stands guard, as surveyors work at St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • In this April 25, 2019 photo, a stained-glass window stands broken at Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
    In this April 25, 2019 photo, a stained-glass window stands broken at Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • In this April 25, 2019 photo, a bird flies over St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
    In this April 25, 2019 photo, a bird flies over St. Sebastian's Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • In this April 25, 2019 photo, a statue of Jesus Christ stands on the altar of St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
    In this April 25, 2019 photo, a statue of Jesus Christ stands on the altar of St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Nearly a week later, even after the cleaners have come through, the blood can still be seen clearly. The statues of Jesus and the saints are still speckled with fragments of shrapnel. The smell of death is everywhere, though the bodies are long gone.

Yet somehow, there’s a beauty to St. Sebastian’s, a neighborhood church in a Catholic enclave north of Sri Lanka’s capital, where a man calmly walked in during Easter services with a heavy backpack and blew himself up.

You can see the beauty in the broken stained-glass windows. It’s there as the sun shines through the roof’s gaping holes. It’s there in the little statues that refused to fall over, and despite the swarms of police and soldiers who seem to be everywhere now in the streets of the seaside town of Negombo.

For more than 50 years, St. Sebastian’s had been the scene of weddings and baptisms, of Christmas celebrations and countless Masses.

A view of St. Sebastian’s Church damaged in a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019. The church was hit by one of eight blasts that rocked churches and hotels in and just outside of Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday. (AP/Chamila Karunarathne)

It’s still not clear exactly how many died Sunday at the Negombo church, but perhaps nearly half of the roughly 250 people killed in the Easter bombings that targeted churches and high-end hotels. Authorities say a once-obscure militant Muslim group carried out the attacks, while the Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility.

In a largely Buddhist country, Negombo is mostly Catholic town with dozens of churches. For days, it has been in mourning.

St. Sebastian’s walls are now blackened near where the bomber stood when he killed himself, spraying shrapnel in every direction. From inside, you see destruction wherever you look.

In this April 25, 2019 photo, a statue of St. James stands on a wall speckled with fragments of shrapnel at St. Sebastian’s Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

But from outside the church, if you ignore the police tape and if you’re standing far enough away, you might think nothing had happened there at all.

You might think St. Sebastian’s is a place known only for weddings and baptisms, for Christmas celebrations and countless Masses.

In this April 25, 2019 photo, a stained-glass window stands broken at Sebastian’s Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
In this April 25, 2019 photo, a policeman stands guard, as surveyors work at St. Sebastian’s Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
In this April 25, 2019 photo, a bird flies over St. Sebastian’s Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
In this April 21, 2019, file photo, blood stains a Jesus Christ statue at the St. Sebastian’s Church after a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP Photo, File)
In this April 25, 2019 photo, a statue of Jesus Christ stands on the altar of St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
In this April 25, 2019 photo, Catholic priests walk outside St. Sebastian’s Church, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on Easter Sunday in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
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